Column | Malkeet KaurPublished on October 23, 2021
PGA NovaWorld Phan Thiet – Vietnam’s Newest Shiniest Gem
When former World No.1 and Golf Hall-of-Famer, Greg Norman saw the landscape on which the NovaGroup wanted to build their first golf course, it reminded him of his native Australia. It had a rugged canvas with fantastic ocean views and a great topography to design a golf course.
Located in the Binh Thuan province, the natural beautiful red sandy soil struck a chord in Norman. He knew it would offer a striking contrast with the verdant greenery of the Zoysia fairways.
“It reminded me of Australia. It has a large scale, beautiful sea views and unique terrain to design the golf course. We’ve built design ideas by walking around the area, putting complex greens in the best positions, and placing tee positions so that they maximize visibility. A special feature of this golf course is the native natural red sand. The contrast of colour between red sand and blue of the fairway creates an impressive beauty,” said Norman.
PGA NovaWorld Phan Thiet is Vietnam’s latest golf development and is slated for launch sometime later in 2021, depending on the country’s position in the current pandemic.
Located on a beautiful stretch of coastline overlooking the East Sea, PGA NovaWorld Phan Thiet is around three and a half hours drive from Ho Chi Minh City, which will be reduced to around one hour 40 minutes when the new highway opens in 2022.
The two 18-hole championship golf courses, PGA Ocean and PGA Garden golf courses, offer stunning ocean vistas and are designed with all types of golfers in mind. The varying tee-boxes create different angles into holes, making the experience memorable for golfers. However, on a windy afternoon, the 7,400-yard PGA Ocean golf course is bound to give even the world’s top players a run for their money.
Norman said, “The sea breeze at Phan Thiet is a special element for me to design a bold golf course, bringing interesting and memorable experiences to golfers.”
The fairways are lined by the PGA Golf Villas, luxury properties with excellent amenities nearby, such as fine dining restaurants and premium retailers, in addition to the stunning beachfront and varied entertainment on offer.
Not only that, but as the only PGA of America accredited academy in the region, it’s a venue where the next generation of local talent can come to train and develop their game to help grow the sport in Vietnam.
“Binh Thuan has many strengths to attract domestic and international tourists. It will be Vietnam’s top destination once both the highway and the airport are completed. We think we have chosen the right partner in Vietnam because NovaGroup has shared its vision plan and passion for golf. This partnership makes us very excited; PGA and NovaGroup will not only stop at building exclusive golf brands but also want to contribute to the development of Vietnam’s golf tourism,” said Mr Sean D. Thornberry – PGA.
“NovaWorld Phan Thiet has signed a partnership with the PGA, committed to raising the standard of golf in Vietnam and supporting everyone in this field,” said Mr Joseph Millar – General Manager, PGA NovaWorld Phan Thiet.
Aside from the Greg Norman Signature Design 36-hole layout, the facilities at PGA NovaWorld Phan Thiet also include a Mediterranean style clubhouse, a 300m driving range and a PGA Academy featuring an exclusive short game area with an 18-hole putting green. Players can also participate in 18 holes of night golf on the PGA Ocean golf course.
“There are a lot of special things about the clubhouse. The first attraction is the beautiful, open, and breathable European style design. From the lounge to the dressing room, anywhere in the building, you can cover the golf course and enjoy the cool breeze from the ocean. We have a sports bar on the ground floor with views of the 18th hole, a Pro Shop, VIP dining rooms serving private functions and many other areas for guests to play golf or visit freely choosing to enjoy the space alone or with friends. The Clubhouse at PGA NovaWorld Phan Thiet is amazing,” added Millar.
While the overall development at NovaWorld Phan Thiet is around 1,000 hectares, the golf course covers some 180 hectares with ocean views available from many holes.
The PGA Ocean golf course is a longer undulating golf course with dramatic ocean views throughout the layout. It’s a nice blend of a links-styled course with many parkland attributes. It has a very natural native landscape theme, highlighted by the rugged golden coloured bunkers that transition into vast native sandy waste areas throughout the course.
The PGA Garden golf course will be more of a formal style layout featuring distinctive Alister Mackenzie styled bunkers themed after the famous Sand Belt courses in Melbourne, Australia. It also features a near 2km rocky stream system that will wind through the middle of the course and allow water to come into play on 10 of the 18 holes. Overall, the course will be a much lusher and colourful landscape experience.
The club is also very concise about the impact that the development could have on the environment. New environmentally friendly Zeon Zoysia grass covers all the fairways and tees. PGA NovaWorld Phan Thiet is the very first golf course to have Primo Zoysia grass greens in Asia. Both grass types require dramatically less water and fertilizer than other turfs. Solar panels have also been installed on the clubhouse roof to generate a certain percentage of the power requirements.
“I feel very proud to be involved in the golf course construction project from the first days (design phase in 2018) to the completion of the PGA Ocean golf course at PGA NovaWorld Phan Thiet. We are thrilled to have created a great golf course where people can come and enjoy their happy time with family and friends,” said Mr Andrew Bowles – Managing Director, Nova Golf Clubs.
Nova Golf is so committed to growing the game that it is currently looking at developing several international standard golf facilities across Vietnam serving up to 2,000 members and attracting some 60,000 domestic and international tourists every year.
“Since 2018, NovaGroup has started phase two of our development strategy, including tourism real estate development. We realize that Binh Thuan Province and Phan Thiet city have a huge potential to develop various tourism services, especially golf tourism. And in terms of golf tourism, our goal is to serve domestic tourists and international tourists. This is the idea that prompted us to decide and build this golf course following to PGA standards,” said Mr Bui Xuan Huy – CEO NovaGroup
PGA NovaWorld Phan Thiet promises to be an exciting development for golf in Vietnam and Asia. It is a golf course everyone can look forward to when it opens, eventually. And the Great White Shark extols his design experience and the future of the golf course so well.
He said, “For me, the design of the PGA NovaWorld Phan Thiet golf course has brought interesting experiences, and I love this job. In the current global pandemic, the golf course is an ideal destination, to be active in sports, and enjoy the vast space and fresh air. I encourage everyone to come to Phan Thiet and experience the PGA Ocean golf course at PGA NovaWorld Phan Thiet.”
Column | Malkeet KaurPublished on August 28, 2021
Tun Ahmad Sarji, Malaysian Professional Golf’s Greatest Benefactor, Passes Away
Today, Malaysian golf suffered a significant loss with the passing of Tun Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid.
The former chief secretary to the government (1990 – 1996), aged 82, passed away at 1.40 a.m. on August 28 at Hospital Cancelor Tuanku Muhriz (UKM) in Cheras. He was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) due to complications from Covid-19.
After he retired from the government service, Tun Ahmad Sarji immersed himself into the world of golf and helped to elevate Malaysian professional golf to a new level. The Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) Tour was his brainchild, and he breathed new life into the professional golf scene in the country. His passion for the sport and single-minded determination also led to the participation of Malaysian golf professionals in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
With Tun Ahmad Sarji at the helm of the PGM Tour as Chairman, professional golf in the country, which was lagging far behind, finally saw some light at the end of the tunnel. Tun Ahmad Sarji leaves a tremendous legacy behind, not only for his dedicated service to the government but also for his outstanding support and influence in the lives of Malaysian professional golfers. Malaysian professional golfers had a true towering champion at their side.
As a golfer writer, I had the opportunity to meet and interview Tun Ahmad Sarji several times, and despite his high-ranking stature, he was always forthcoming and generous with his time. He had a calm but commanding presence and spoke with a well-modulated tone that elicited attention and respect.
We wish to convey our deepest condolences to the family of Tun Ahmad Sarji. It is a sad day for Malaysian golf, especially for local professional golfers who have lost their greatest benefactor.
Column | Malkeet KaurPublished on August 20, 2020
PGM Tour Resumes Play in September with 10 Events
The Professional Golf of Malaysia (PGM) Tour is scheduled to resume play in September with ten events on the calendar. They include three PGM ADT events, one PGM Closed event, four Ladies events and two qualifying schools. The total prizemoney for the ten events totals to RM930,000 with RM810,000 for the PGM Tour and RM120,000 for the Ladies Tour.
Chairman of the PGM Tour Tun Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid announced the schedule together with the launch of the PGM Tour Yearbook 2019 and the winners of the PGM Tour Order of Merit winners.
According to Tun Sarji, the Tour was not able to commence for the last eight months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the lack of the necessary license to hold golf tournaments. But now, he announced at the press conference, PGM has obtained the license from the Sport Commissioner.
However, it was earlier reported that the 2020 season of the Tour was halted due to the PGM refusing to pay the 3% sanction fee imposed by the PGA of Malaysia (PGAM), which led to the Tour not being able to obtain the required licence from the Sport Commissioner. And before the issues could be resolved, COVID-19 happened.
When asked about the demand for the 3% sanction fee and if matters with the PGAM had been resolved, Tun Sarji said, “PGM has no issues with anybody. I don’t know about any sanction fee. As far as the PGM is concerned, Nik Mustapha (the General Manager of the PGM Tour) submitted the documents to apply for the license and being a law-abiding organisation, once the application has been lodged at the Ministry, we have to respect the confidentiality of matters. We could not discuss matters with anyone. We waited and have finally got the license. We do not have any influence over anybody.”
He clarified that the license issued is only for 2020 and that the PGM will have to apply for a fresh one for 2021. “As far as the PGM is concerned, the Sport Commissioner has been hugely cooperative with us seeing that they have issued us the license. If for any other reason we are not issued the license in 2021, we will not be able to have the Tour. If we satisfy their requirements on all accounts, then, of course, the license will be issued. But if there is any intervening factor that warrants them not to issue it, we’ll take it. The final authority is the Sport Commissioner,” he said.
On the new calendar, Tun Sarji revealed that despite having announced the calendar, the Tour still faces the possibility of the three PGM ADT events being converted to closed events. This is because the country borders may still remain closed by the time the first event takes place from Sept 23-26, 2020. The PGM has reserved 64 spots for the Asian Tour members. Also, players coming from overseas will face quarantine and testing issues. If the event does not get the minimum number of Asian Tour players, the competition will still take place, but it will no longer be recognised as an ADT event. The foreign players who would have made it to the event would be there as invitees. They will not gain any world ranking points. It will be regarded as a home event, and the prizemoney will be lower. Charlie Tingey, Asian Tour’s Director of Partnerships, said that the tour members are aware of the playing opportunities in Malaysia. “The players are grateful to PGM for giving them a playing opportunity. It’s not just about the money which in this current COVID-19 era it’s a big challenge for everyone not just our industry, but also there is that matter of the world ranking points and the Olympics and hope that it goes ahead next year. The value of this is on multiple levels.”
Tun Sarji also announced that all the mandatory safety protocols would be followed. Prior to arrival at the tournament venue, players will have to complete a health assessment questionnaire. They will be expected to adhere to the SOPs put in place by the Tour as well as the clubs, i.e. usage of face masks, body temperatures screening, sanitisation, physical distancing, self-declaration and check-in via MySejahtera. No spectators will be allowed. Parents of players will be allowed entry if the club permits it. Tun Sarji emphasised that once the players are in the club, the club will take full control of the COVID-19 safety protocols and that the PGM will not bear any COVID-19 testing costs.
On new events for 2021 and sponsors, Tun Sarji said that they PGM would welcome new sponsors. “The pandemic has affected many companies, and sponsorship is crucial for us. We have to accept the new normal; thus, we are willing to accept lower sponsorship. We cannot be expecting companies contribute to the sums that they have in the past. We can only implement our programme in accordance to affordability. If the money is forthcoming, we will have more events, including ADTs. If the money is not enough, we will have to skip ADTs and have closed tournaments.”
Tun Sarji also announced the winners of the 2019 Order of Merit. Amir Nazrin secured the top honour as well as the Player of the Year award and was awarded RM10,000. Ainil Johani Bakar collected her second Order of Merit title, her first being in 2017, and took home RM5,000.
There will be no Order of Merit winners for 2020. Instead, PGM will combine the earnings of 2020 with the earnings of the calendar year 2021 to have an OOM winner.
PGM Tour Calendar 2020
Column | Malkeet KaurPublished on August 11, 2020
PGA TOUR 2K21 – The Golf Game for Gamers!
The wait is finally over for golf fans and gamers who have been patiently waiting for the next PGA Tour golf game. The licensed golf simulation video game – PGA TOUR 2K21 – will be released globally on August 21, 2020, for the PlayStation 4, Xbox 1, Nintendo Switch, Windows PC via Steam and Stadia.
The game which was developed by HB Studios includes 15 licensed PGA Tour courses, each offering a realistic simulation golf experience, allowing players to feel that they are playing an actual course, a testament to the technology used in creating authentic-looking fairways, greens, bunkers and water hazards.
“There has been a lull in golf videos games for a while, so we teamed up with PGA TOUR 2K to develop the PGA TOUR 2K21,” said Josh Muise, Creative Director of HB Studios.
He added, “A lot of depth was put into making sure the game hit a wide audience. The PGA TOUR 2K21 brings golf back to the big stage. You don’t need to be a pro to play it because it’s for everyone and it captures the adrenaline and drama of a live PGA Tour spectacle bringing in PGA pro players, broadcast presentation and authentic audio events captured from some of the most exciting events on tour.”
The game will also feature 12 PGA Tour pros including the cover star Justin Thomas. The other pros include Bryson DeChambeau, Sergio Garcia, Kevin Kisner, Cameron Champ, Matt Kuchar, and Tony Finau, among others.
With the PGA Tour career mode, gamers will be able to experience an authentic gameplay simulation of competing on the PGA Tour and make their way to the FedEx Cup playoffs, along the way face challenges of a fully stacked leaderboard. Gamers will have to overcome rivalry challenges with top PGA Tour pros. Players will also have opportunities to build relationships and sign contracts with the top licensed brands in the game.
Gamers will be able to personalise and customise their own avatars (MyPlayer) that will represent them in the career mode and all other gameplay. And if that option proves too overwhelming, there are pre-set avatars to get the ball rolling. Gamers can also choose the brands and equipment from the licensed brands that include TaylorMade Golf, Callaway Golf, Bridgestone and more. There is a vast library of options from the top brands in the world to decorate the player head to toe.
Gamers will also be able to design their own golf course, upload them for others to play. Here’s an opportunity for players to create either an iconic golf course or one that will be simply fun to play in. Those interested in competing in tournaments with friends can also do so in several available game modes that include stroke play, match play, alternate shot, scramble, and, skins.
“The game delivers the most visually immersive and engaging golf experience, and it’s a platform for gamers to share their creativity with their golf partners and opponents,” said Shaun West, Senior Producer HB Studios.
One of the exciting aspects of the game is when the player reaches the green. PGA TOUR 2K21 has a grid cover the entire green giving players an excellent opportunity to line-up their putt careful before sinking it into the cup. This full golfing experience is what makes the game fun. And the broadcast-style presentation, hi-tech graphics, commentary by famous broadcaster Luke Elvy and analyst Rich Beem, all collectively make this the video game something to look forward.
Column | Malkeet KaurPublished on July 20, 2020
Last year, at the 2019 World Golf Awards, Sentosa Golf Club, home to Singapore’s iconic Serapong and New Tanjong golf courses, won the ‘World’s Best Golf Club’ accolade cementing its position as a world-class destination. Not surprisingly, the club has garnered the nomination for Best Eco-Friendly Golf Facility 2020 at the World Golf Awards.
One may wonder, how could a golf course located in a tiny Southeast Asian country, beat the fierce competition from many other famous golf courses around the world. There are several reasons Sentosa rose to the occasion, aside from being a hub for international tourism and an essential sporting facility. Sentosa Golf Club was also recognised for being the world’s leading environmentally friendly golf venue, a fact attested by the 2019 RHT RMF GAIL Sustainability Day award. The club successfully collected the Sustainability Gamechanger and Sustainability Innovator titles. And these awards are firm endorsements of the club’s sustainability strategies and its goal of becoming the world’s leading green venue.
The Sustainability Gamechanger title was given for the club’s ability to drive change in sustainable practices within their respective industry. At the same time, the Sustainability Innovator award recognised the club’s ability to be innovative to achieve positive social, environmental and economic impacts.
Indeed, in recent years, Sentosa Golf Club has upped its game on the sustainability drive with their various sustainable initiatives. Also, Sentosa’s agronomic practice has long been considered at the forefront of the golf industry. Continual efforts have been made in developing the most sustainable methodologies, and maintenance programmes demonstrated best in the reconstruction of the New Tanjong course.
The #KeepItGreen initiative that was launched during the 2018 SMBC Singapore Open has evolved into a way of life at the club intending to reduce environmental footprint, both on and off the golf course. Club operations ensure that environmental sustainability is considered into every decision taken by the club. Every aspect of the agronomy programmes and operations are continuously monitored to ensure that all work is carried out in harmony with the environment.
Sentosa Golf Club was the first golf club in Asia to introduce the usage of carbon product in its agronomy programme. It was also the first to initiate the GPS (RTK satellite navigation) spraying equipment to improve efficiency and reduce the use of chemicals to a bare minimum. Also, converting the irrigation system to a single-head control system has allowed the club to reduce its water usage by 40%.
Plastic water bottles and straws have been banned from the club, and over the two years, this initiative has helped save around 300,000 plastic water bottles and 120,000 straws. Water stations have been installed at various points around the golf course so that golfers can refill their reusable water bottle throughout their entire round.
The club is also planning to introduce waste digesters to convert food and horticulture wastes into fertilisers for both the golf courses. The innovative initiative has too caught the interest of the R&A, and they are keen to work with Sentosa on this project.
The other initiative that the club launched in 2020 is the GAME ON initiative, which is designed to be a stimulus towards tackling the global threat of climate change. Golf’s major stakeholders and the global golfing community are being encouraged to implement innovative processes that will preserve the environment, thus addressing the climate change issues.
With this initiative, the golf industry will place itself at the forefront of making a difference on climate change. There are over 61 million golfers and about 39,000 golf courses worldwide, and the idea is to get the industry united, more socially conscious and working towards reducing golf’s carbon footprints.
The GAME ON model was developed by the world’s leading agronomists, Andrew Johnston, General Manager and Director of Agronomy at Sentosa Golf Club. Johnston has more than 40 years of experience in golf course design, golf operations and is one of the leading figures in the golf industry, especially in sustainability. He has helped transform Sentosa Golf Club into one of the most recognisable eco-friendly golf facility in the world through the measures he has implemented.
The concept of GAME ON is to target the relevant issues faced by both golf and the world in its fight against climate change. The idea is to reduce carbon while addressing the dependence on unnecessary processes that are harmful to the environment.
The GAME ON model, which is set to be available as a free downloadable toolkit from the club’s website, has similarities and supports the R&A’s 2030 Golf Course Sustainability that considers the impact, both positive and negative, of a changing climate, resource constraints and regulations on the course conditions and playability.
It is imperative for clubs, owners and managers to gain an understanding of persevering the environment and Sentosa hopes to serve as an inspiration in this respect. From taking food wastage and recycling in back into the ecosystem to introducing bees into the community (another innovative initiative of the club), Sentosa Golf Club hopes to have a lasting and sustainable impact on the environment as well as the golf industry.
Sentosa Golf Club lies at the heart of the Singapore golf and leisure community. Located on the famed Sentosa Island, which attracts millions of visitors each year, the club is home to the R&A’s Asia Pacific office and is the Official Headquarters of the Asian Tour.
Sentosa Golf Club Sustainability Initiatives include:
- Banned all single-use plastics from their golf courses
- Installed water stations at various points around the golf courses where members and guests can refill a single re-useable water bottle throughout their rounds.
- Over a two-year period, the initiative has helped to save around 300,000 plastic water bottles.
- Installation of Reservoir Lakes
- As part of the New Tanjong’s redevelopment in 2016, the club installed six large reservoir lakes around the golf course
- The installation of the reservoir lakes has allowed the golf courses to become self-irrigating
- The club is able to collect rainwater in the reservoir lakes and recycle the water as irrigation for their golf courses
- Converted Irrigation Systems to Single-Head Control System
- Sentosa Golf Club has converted its irrigation system to a single-head control system
- This has allowed the club to reduce its water resources used by up to 40%
- Lithium-ion Batteries in Golf Carts
- Club has converted its 220 golf carts to use Lithium-ion batteries which are rechargeable and last for up to 8 years rather than having to be replaced on an annual basis like the ordinary lead-based batteries
- Created their own Sustainable Herb Garden
- Club has created their own sustainable herb garden that allows them to organically grow their own herbs and use them in their kitchen
- By growing them organically, the club does not have to rely on products that have been grown using chemicals and pesticides that are harmful to the environment or for products to be delivered that result in more greenhouse gases being produced
- Created their own Stingless Bee Colonies on-site
- Bees are one of the world’s most important species as one-third of the food we eat in the world is a result of bees
- The bee population is estimated to be down by around 75%
- End of bees could signal the ‘beginning of the end of the world.’
- Sentosa Golf Club has developed four stingless bee (Heterotrigona itama) colonies on-site behind the ‘Pyramids’ on the New Tanjong’s 4th hole
- Club wants to help play their part in maintaining the world population of bees, as well as raising awareness for the importance of bees to our society
- The colonies were created and helped set up by John Chong, Founder of BEE AMAZED, in partnership with Sentosa Golf Club
- BEE AMAZED is a visitor’s centre in Singapore that provides knowledge and information on the local bees, honey and basic beekeeping techniques
- Any golf club around the world can create their own colonies using any excess space around the club. Sentosa have many parts of the property that can’t be used for golf that’s perfect for colonising bees…”
- Became First Club in Asia to Introduce Carbon Products into Agronomy Programme
- The first club in Asia to introduce carbon products in the form of Biochar into their agronomy programme
- Biochar helps to remove more carbon from the atmosphere as it helps to develop the soil and enhance its foundations giving it a healthier soil profile
- It is estimated that the use of biochar in soils could help increase the uptake of carbon from the atmosphere by up to 10% more than normal
- Use of Biochar has allowed Sentosa to reduce the fertility applications used by up to 50% annually, as well as reducing pesticide applications used by up to 95%
- Purchased GPS Spraying Equipment to Improve Efficiency
- The club purchased GPS spraying equipment to increase efficiency and reduce the amount of product applications used by targeting specific areas of the golf courses at one time
- The GPS spraying equipment has helped the Sentosa agronomy team to reduce its product application used by up to 30%
- Club Culture
- As part of the club’s culture and ethos, they challenge their staff to pick 15 weeds per day to help sustain the environment in and around the club and golf courses
- This is an efficient way to help sustain the environment as it requires no machinery to be used in the process, therefore limiting the use of greenhouse gases given off
Column | Malkeet KaurPublished on May 19, 2020
If You Haven’t Seen Lahore, You Haven’t Even Been Born!
There’s a general saying amongst Lahoris – Je Lahore Nai Dekhya, O Janmyai Nai, – meaning, one who hasn’t seen Lahore is not even born. It expresses the pride Lahoris have for their city, which is also popularly known as ‘The Paris of the East’.
Lahoris are so warm and welcoming; they have a charming way of articulating everything that captivates your attention; you will somehow find yourself agreeing to their suggestions, rendering you helpless, in a good way, to their friendliness and affable nature.
It starts the moment you cross the Attari-Wagah Border – the land border post between India and Pakistan. The border crossing itself is an interesting experience. After the whole immigration and customs process on the Indian side, which can take anything from 20 minutes to an hour or more depending on the number of people, you’ll be put on a two-minute bus that will take you to the border. After you get off the bus, there’ll be more document checking and baggage checking by friendly sniffer dogs before you are directed to walk to the huge gates.
As you approach the gates, behind and in front of you are the stadiums where the daily military parade of the security forces of both countries – India’s Border Security Force (BSF) and the Pakistan Rangers – is held in a colourful ceremony watched by thousands of visitors every evening. The performances on either side of the border are orchestrated and coordinated for maximum enjoyment.
In the day time, however, it’s just a quiet and peaceful border post with strict enforcement. As you stand at the gates, handing your passport, first, to the BSF and then, immediately, two-steps later to the Ranger officers, there is this moment of awe as your eyes roam around and take in the large expanse of the stadiums with concrete steps, and the huge flags of the respective countries swaying majestically in the clear blues skies.
Once you cross the gates, you will be subjected to welcoming bellows from porters who rush forward and insist on helping you with your bags, totally ignoring your protestations, and even take photos for you. After, you must tip them generously. From the immigration complex, you will be taken to the public car park area via a somewhat shaky tumbledown toy train looking vehicle. It’s a tight squeeze but an interesting ride, nonetheless.
Having been the seat of many imperial dynasties, the grandeur of Lahore can be experienced in her many extraordinary mosques, mausoleums, fort, gardens, as well as in the colourful lifestyles of its people, which embody the spirit and soul of the city.
Lahore’s golden age began in 1524 when it was captured by Babur’s troops from the Turks. It marked the beginning of the Mughal dynasty and the city flourished, even becoming the city of royal residence. In the mid-18 century, it became an outpost of the Iranian empire. However, Lahore is most noted and associated with the rise of the Sikh empire, becoming the seat of a powerful government under the rule of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1799-1839). After the death of Ranjit Singh, the city declined and soon came under British rule in 1849.
Lahore is a mixture of the old and the newer commercial, industrial and residential areas that have sprouted around the city and the suburbs. The old city was at one time surrounded by a wall and a moat but have been since replaced by parks, with exception of the north. A circular road around the rampart provides access to the old city by 13 gates. And within the old city lies the Wazir Khan mosque and the grand Lahore Fort.
The fort, which is a splendid example of Mughal architecture, is a walled complex that spans some 36 acres and was partially built by Akbar and extended by the next three emperors. The fort, also known as the Shahi Qila, is a gigantic compound comprising of greenery enclosures, royal residences, lobbies, and mosques. Successive rulers made their mark on the fort including Shah Jahan’s 17th century Crystal Palace or “Shish Mahal” and Ranjit Singh’s ornate marble structure with 12 doorways – the Diwan-e-Khaas – where he entertained special guests. Most of the mirror work and frescos were also added during the of the Sikh rule.
There is literally so much to see at the Lahore Fort that it would easily take half a day with lots of walking. It would also be advisable to hire a guide to show you around and share with you the colourful history of the fort as well as the other historic landmarks nearby, which include the massive Badshahi Mosque, built by Aurangzeb, and one of the largest mosque in Asia, Ranjit Singh’s structures within the fort, his mausoleum and the nearby Dera Sahib Gurdwara.
The fort which is a UNESCO World Heritage site also houses three museums, the Mughal Museum, the Armoury Gallery and the Sikh Museum, each containing a series of interesting exhibits.
From the Lahore Fort and the Badshahi Mosque, one will catch glimpses of the Minar-e-Pakistan. The tower stands tall at the Iqbal Park of Lahore, one of the nation’s biggest urban parks; this is the site where the Lahore Resolution was passed by the All-India Muslim League in 1940. The park and tower represent the mixture of Islamic, Mughal and modern styles.
Close by, laid out east of the city in 1642 by Shah Jahan, is the magnificent Shalamar Bagh. It was a refuge for the royal family that consisted of 80 acres of terraced, walled gardens with some 450 fountains. Not surprising, it’s also designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. Too bad it was undergoing renovations, but it is said that in its full glory, the gardens are truly something to behold.
At the time the garden was laid out, the waterworks and terraces of Shalamar were unprecedented in Lahore. There was a time when a broad canal from the nearby River Ravi fed hundreds of fountains, pools, and lushly irrigated flora. The majesty and beauty of the gardens inspired not only the rulers of the day but also local Sufi poets as well as other writers. Shalamar Bagh was a focus of intense spiritual and poetic experience. Exploring the gardens and taking in its many historical nuances can take half a day.
Another place that is worth a visit is the Lahore Museum which houses eclectic collections of art and historical items. Although the museum was built during the British Raj, the main building was built using design patterns from the Mughal Empire. You certainly can’t miss the main redbrick building with its large domes and columns.
If you love shopping, the busy Liberty Market and Anarkali Bazaar is the place one would venture for bargains and variety of clothes and accessories.
Many Sikhs tend to visit Lahore because of historical and religious reasons. Historical, because it once was the capital of the Sikh Empire, and religious, because of its proximity to Nankana Sahib, and Sri Kartarpur Sahib, respectively the birthplace and final resting place of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism.
Column | Malkeet KaurPublished on January 1, 1970
Lahore Gymkhana Club – A Legacy from the Past
The royal and ancient game is well and thriving in Lahore, especially at the Lahore Gymkhana Club, which is the oldest club in the country. As you walk across the car park and head up the steps leading into the hallowed interior, history permeates the atmosphere. Framed photographs of the old club and the prominently placed plaques on the walls chronicle the passage of time and of a past that is revered. The club prides itself on quality as well as the diversity of its membership which includes businessmen, the literati, renowned journalists, celebrated artists, members of the judiciary, civil services, armed forces and sports.
We are met by a distinguished member of the elite Lahore society, Mr Parvez Bhandara, a long-time member of the club as well as a member of the Committee of Management. Sitting in the cool climes of the Lahori weather, sipping our hot piping chai, al-fresco at Caffe 9, together with other Lahore’s elite, Mr Bhandara shared the history of the club and later also took us for a tour.
Established in 1878 by the British, the Lahore Gymkhana was founded as ‘The Lahore and Mian Mir Institute’ in the lush Lawrence Gardens opposite the sprawling estate of the Governor’s House, the imperial symbol of power and authority of the British Raj.
“After the Britishers established this club in 1878, they also formed the Delhi Gymkhana in 1913 and then the Karachi Gymkhana in 1917. These three were the original three Gymkhana clubs started by the Britishers,” said Bhandara.
The building of the Institute comprised mainly the Lawrence and Montgomery Halls. The Lawrence Hall was built in 1861-62 in memory of Sir John Laird Lawrence, the first Chief Commissioner (1853-57) and Viceroy of India (1863-69), while the Montgomery Hall facing the central avenue of the Bagh-e-Jinnah was built in 1866 to commemorate Robert Montgomery, second Lt Governor of Punjab (1859-65), from contributions made by the native chiefs.
The Halls were the centre of Lahore’s social scene where Lahore’s elite of the British era gathered and indulged in their sporting activities as well as mingled with their peers. Locals were not allowed. Only the handful of local royalty like the Muslim Nawabs and Sikh lords were allowed membership of the club. Since then the club has been known as an elite’s club in Lahore.
In 1906, the ‘Lahore and Mian Mir Institute’ was changed to the Lahore Gymkhana. However, in 1972, the premises were taken over by the government of Punjab and the club had to move from Mall Road to its present location at the Upper Mall Road, which interestingly was the Golf Club of Lahore Gymkhana.
Bhandara explained, “It is a government of Punjab land. The British took it on lease from the government of Punjab and so when the lease expired, we had to leave. The Montgomery Hall is a beautiful old building. Now it’s the biggest library in Lahore by the name of Quaid-e-Azam library. On the back of that hall, there is a cricket ground with a pavilion. The cricket ground is still with us.”
He added, “When they took it over and asked us to move, we already had this golf course which the British built. In the old days, this was only a golf club with an 18-hole golf course.”
Spread over an area of 117 acres, the Lahore Gymkhana Club finally found a home they could do a lot with and expand. The foundation stone of the present clubhouse was laid in 1968 and completed in 1972. The cost of the building was borne by the generous members. Now all sports, except for cricket is played at the current Gymkhana club. The Lahore Gymkhana Cricket ground, which is thought to be one of the most beautiful in the country, is still located in the old grounds.
“We have nine tennis courts – six grass courts and three hard courts, there are four international-standard squash courts, we have two swimming pools, a billiard room, a three-storey gymnasium with the latest equipment, table-tennis, a card room, a rich library, a computer room, a reading room which stocks newspapers from around the world, two big halls in the main clubhouse and two smaller one for small groups, a Wellness Centre, a convenience store called The Shoppe which offers competitive prices, as well as a 90-room guest room,” said Bhandara
The golf membership until independence in 1947 was mainly for foreigners. It was only in the year 1949, golf started becoming popular amongst the Pakistani members of the Gymkhana Club. During this period, considerable improvements were made to the golf course.
The golf course itself is one of the oldest in Pakistan and traces its origins to the 19th century. In fact, the first organisational golf tournament played there was the Champion Medal (Roe Medal) which was held in January 1895. The 18 hole par 72 6,444 yards championship layout is spread over 85 acres in the heart of Lahore. The challenging layout has some 65 bunkers, the perfectly manicured fairways lined with trees with water hazards on five holes. The course is relatively flat though there are some fairways with undulations. Overall, the course requires consistency if golfers want a clean score-card. The club has hosted a number of international events and regular competitions are held at the club every month.
The Lahore Gymkhana has a number of restaurants for its members and guests. The Caffe 9 serves snacks and a light brunch offering also a scenic view of the golf course. The Chandni Café, reminiscent of the early 70s serves Pakistani cuisines as well as international favourites. Then there is the Veranda Terrace with its variety of ala carte continental cuisine as well as local favourites to be savoured while enjoying the majestic views of the fairway and greens. The Main Lounge with its royal artwork and interiors is a great place to relax. The Chandni Lounge is a favourite of senior members who enjoy their cup of tea or coffee with a variety of ala carte breakfast snacks while enjoying the scenic views. The Main Dining Mall with its exquisite décor and a formal atmosphere requires formal attire from its diners while enjoying local and Continental food. The ThaiChin and Tulip Room serve a variety of Chinese, Thai and Italian cuisines. There is also an area for a Pakistani-BBQ beside the lawn with a lovely view of the lake. Each restaurant has a dress code which is expected to be adhered to.
According to Bhandara, the club currently has 10,000 members but only 5,500 are permanent voting members.
“Membership fee is US$10,000, or 14 lakhs in Pakistani rupees. It is not a matter of money, everybody wants to be a member of this club. The time waiting period is so long, it’s now about 24 years. Today, you apply and you pay US$10,000, your turn for the interview will come after 24 years. According to the constitution and the bylaws of the club, we can interview 100 people every year, not more than 100 people. We have a waiting list of about 2,400 – 2,500 people, so naturally, the person who applies now, his turn will come after 24 years!” explained Bhandara.
There are also three other newer golf clubs in Lahore namely the Defence Raya Golf & Country Club, Lahore Garrison Golf & Country Club, Royal Palm Golf & Country Club and The Oasis Golf & Aqua Resort.
Column | Malkeet KaurPublished on May 16, 2020
Malaysia’s Veteran Pro V Nellan Passes Away
Malaysia’s veteran golfer Nellan Vellasamy no longer walks among us. The 71-year-old legend passed away this morning at 2.30 a.m. at University Hospital on 16 May 2020. According to his son Tharvindren, Nellan complained of a tightness in his torso, so they rushed him to the hospital ER at night at around 10 pm last night. He was admitted and after several tests, the family was informed that his heart was slowly weakening and eventually, as his son said chokingly – “he just left us.”
Born September 30, 1949, Nellan was one of those individuals with a big personality that was larger than life. He had a lot of stories to tell, some so outrageous, one wasn’t quite sure if he was pulling one’s leg or not. He had a wealth of colourful golf stories to tell anyone who listened. He had a tremendous sense of humour, was never afraid to speak his mind on any topic, especially about the state of our local professional golf scene, he was an accomplished professional and a well-loved teaching professional, not just in Malaysia, but throughout Asia. He was truly a golf legend.
“My father had always done things his own way. He was always joking. Even in the hospital, despite having just vomited, he was still joking with the nurses. I could hear laughter behind the curtains,” said his son Tharvindren, who revealed that the MCO was difficult for his father as he wasn’t used to staying put at home.
He added, “He was always outdoors, travelling and living his life. We thank god that he was in the country when the MCO was imposed.”
Golf was the love of his life. In his own words, he once said that golf consumed his very being. This year, Nellan celebrated 50 years (a golden anniversary) of being a professional golfer. He was the eldest of 10 siblings who grew up around the Royal Selangor Golf Club (RSGC) area. His family, including him, starting at age 13 earned a livelihood at the country’s premier golf club. Not many people can say they shared a lesson with crooner Engelbert Humperdinck or caddied for Malaysia’s Prime Ministers Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Abdul Razak, as well as Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore’s Prime Minister.
In his playing career, Nellan played his first Malaysian Open in 1969 and his last in 1989. His two tournament victories included the 1985 Tasek Cement Matchplay and the 1987 Malaysian PGA Championship. He proudly represented Malaysia in two World Cups recording the country’s best finish then at 11th place together with Bobby Lim in the 1977 edition at the Wack Wack Golf Club in Manila, Philippines. At the 1976 World Cup in Palm Springs, USA, he and Zainal Abidin Yusof finished 32nd.
In his lifetime, Nellan had met and socialised with a host of golfing greats like Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Seve Ballesteros, Gary Player and a non-golfer Garry Sobers, a West Indies cricketer.
Nellan cheated death twice; he survived a plane crash at Subang Airport in 1983 when the flight from Singapore crashed two kilometres short of the runway, and he beat colon cancer in 2007.
As a teaching pro, he held teaching positions at Kelab Golf Negara Subang, Tasik Utara Golf Club (Now known as Johor Golf Club), and the Seremban International Golf Club. Though he was now the ambassador for the Saujana Golf & Country Club, his teaching skills were in demand all over Asia.
It all began when a group of Indian visitors took lessons from him at Saujana and later invited him to teach beginners and juniors in India. Indeed, despite his advancing age, he had become Malaysia’s veteran golfing nomad travelling frequently to East Malaysia and to different parts of the world imparting his golfing knowledge and skills to groups of golfers who valued his homespun style of golf instructions.
Nellan was well-loved evidenced by the number of phone calls received by his family and friends from around the world, all saddened by the loss of their coach, but most of all, a friend. Nellan is survived by his wife, two sons, a daughter and a host of grandchildren.
You will be so missed Nellan. Rest in Peace.
Column | Malkeet KaurPublished on July 19, 2018
The Asian Challenge at Carnoustie
Malaysia’s Gavin Green will feature in an elite field alongside India’s Shubhankar Sharma and Anirban Lahiri, as well as Thailand’s Danthai Boonma, Jazz Janewattananond and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, highest-ranked Asian Tour player in 30th position on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) at this week’s Open Championship at Carnoustie starting today.
Green, the reigning Asian Tour Order of Merit champion is making his Major debut and is the sole Malaysian in the field. Green is the third and youngest Malaysian to qualify for the world’s oldest Major. The other two players were Iain Steel (1996) and Danny Chia (2005, 2008 and 2010). The 24-year-old sealed his place by winning the Merit title last year.
“I’m excited, of course! You can feel the buzz in the air and I’m just going to go out there, try to enjoy myself and do the best that I can. I’m just trying to stay a little grounded and not get too excited.
“I have my entire support team here with me including my swing coach, my mental coach and my physio. My dad will be on the bag for me and that’s good as we’ve been working together pretty well the past few events,” said Green.
After notching four top-10 results, which included three runner-up finishes, Green broke through at the Mercuries Taiwan Masters before going on to lift the 2017 Order of Merit crown, thanks to a season’s haul of US$582,463.
“It’s very humbling to be able to represent Malaysia in a Major like The Open. I am very happy to have the opportunity to do so and I hope that I can continue to make the country proud.
“Whenever I see the Malaysian flag flying in the tournaments that I play in, I will feel very privileged to be able to represent the country,” added the young Malaysian.
Coming off a tied-19th place finish at the Scottish Open last week, Green is relishing the challenge of playing in his first Major championship. He will have his father, Gary, on his bag and his mother, brother and grandmother supporting him from outside the ropes when he vies for top honours this week.
“Walking up the 18th and seeing the famous leaderboards is pretty special! We stood on the 18th green a bit and just took in the peaceful atmosphere and I could just imagine how fantastic it would be when the stands are full of spectators!
“The course’s impressive! When the wind blows, it will be very challenging. Playing in Europe has definitely been an eye-opener. You learn to appreciate the game so much more as you learn to handle the different courses. I am definitely practising harder and improving on the variety of shots I have in the bag,” Green said.
Thai star Kiradech Aphibarnrat will be looking to produce his best outing at The Open when he tees off for his fifth appearance in the world’s oldest Major Championship today.
Kiradech, Asia’s number one in 2013, has never made the halfway cut in his last four appearances at The Open, which is also the only Major championship that he has yet to make it to the weekend rounds.
Placed 30th on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR), Kiradech hopes to set the record straight when he plays alongside World number three Justin Rose and defending champion Jordan Spieth in the opening round.
“I will try and play my best this week. If I can put up a good showing, it will be a perfect birthday gift for myself,” said Kiradech, who turns 29 on Monday. “I am playing with Rose and Spieth tomorrow. I want to make the Asians feel proud by playing well alongside them.”
The big-hitting Kiradech has enjoyed a superb season so far, claiming his third Asian Tour title and fourth European Tour victory at the ISPS HANDA World Super 6 Perth in February and taking home his third Asian Development Tour (ADT) victory in Brunei the following month.
Kiradech also came in tied-fifth at both the WGC-Mexico Championship and the WGC – Dell Technologies Match Play in March. In his last Major appearance at the US Open in June, Kiradech enjoyed a 15th place finish, which matched his best ever result in a Major championship.
“I am looking forward to this week. I will just stay focused and try to keep the ball in play. Carnoustie is one of the toughest courses for The Open. I have to make sure I missed at the right spots to give myself opportunities to get up and down and avoid the bunkers out there,” he said.
Kiradech will spearhead the Thai challenge alongside debutants Jazz Janewattananond and Danthai Boonma.
Danthai, a one-time Asian Tour winner, is hoping to make it a week to remember when he tees off for his first Major championship this week.
“I am enjoying the experience so far. This is my first time in Scotland and also my first time playing on a links course. The course’s pretty intimidating with the strong winds and firm greens but I will focus on playing shot by shot and stick to my strategy,” said the 22-year-old Danthai.
Danthai, a double-gold medalist at the 2012 South East Asia (SEA) Games, earned his Asian Tour breakthrough at The World Golf Classic Championship in Singapore three years ago. He has also notched back-to-back top-10 finishes on the Asian Tour, two weeks prior to his Major debut.
“I’m very excited to play in my first Major this week. My parents are here in Scotland for the first time and they are enjoying themselves too. A lot of superstars are here. I would love to see Tiger Woods, for sure.
“I played my practice round with some top players like Louis Oosthuizen and Gary Woodland yesterday and it was a great experience. I learned a lot from them. I am not thinking much about the results. I just want to enjoy myself this week,” Danthai added.
His fellow compatriot Jazz Janewattananond hopes to cap a memorable return to Carnoustie by putting up a good showing in his debut appearance.
“It’s great to be back in Carnoustie. My dad brought me here to watch Tiger Woods play The Open in 2007. We were amongst the spectators here when Padraig Harrington defeated Sergio Garcia to win that year.
“My dad plays an important role in my career. He was the one who brought me into the game when I was young. It’s great to be back here with him and to have him watch me play in my first ever Major championship,” said Jazz, a two-time Asian Tour winner.
Three weeks prior to his Major debut, Jazz clinched a sensational second victory at the Queen’s Cup on home soil where he triumphed by four shots after firing five straight birdies from the 10th for a closing 67.
The talented Thai went on to claim a joint runner-up finish at the Sarawak Championship in Malaysia the following week, thanks to a superb final round of a 64.
“After Sarawak, I took a few days off before coming here to practise. The weather was still pretty warm the last few days but it is getting colder now. The golf course is looking good. It’s amazing to be able to play in such a big event. The course set-up is great.
“The greens are firm and fast. It’s going to play tough. It’s been very overwhelming for me so far, playing in the first Major in my career this week. There are grandstands everywhere. I’m nervous yet excited at the same time,” Jazz added.
India’s rising star Shubhankar Sharma will realise a long-time dream when he makes his debut appearance today.
The 21-year-old Sharma clinched a sensational breakthrough on the Asian Tour by winning the Joburg Open last December to earn a coveted spot for the year’s third Major championship.
“Playing in The Open has been my ‘only’ dream, at one point of time, when I started playing golf. I have watched all the past editions on television and I would keep replaying the videos until I feel as if I have been played in The Open before,” said Sharma.
After his maiden win in South Africa, the young Indian went on to secure a second Asian Tour title at the lucrative Maybank Championship in Malaysia two months later.
He continued to take the golfing world by storm when he claimed a top-10 finish in his World Golf Championships debut in Mexico in March. That finish earned him an invitation to The Masters where he made his Major debut.
Sharma, who leads the Asian Tour Habitat for Humanity standings with a current haul of US$589,575, added another feather to his cap by earning his second Major appearance at the US Open after making the mark in the Qualifier.
“Playing in the Masters has been an out-of-the-world experience and the circumstances under which I got there, getting a sponsors’ invite, made it all the more beautiful. My whole family and friends were there with me too. Qualifying for the US Open was also great, as I earned that by getting through the qualifier.
“Both these experiences have been unique and enriching. I am extremely lucky that I am getting all these opportunities early in life,” added Sharma, the world’s highest-ranked Indian in 87th place on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR).
Sharma will be flying the Indian flag alongside 2015 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion Anirban Lahiri. Lahiri believes the feel-good factor will stand in his favour when he makes his sixth attempt at The Open today.
The 31-year-old Lahiri hopes to bank on his familiarity with the prestigious tournament as he bids for the Claret Jug at the year’s third Major championship.
“There is a feeling of familiarity at The Open. This is the Major championship which I have played the most number of times. I was telling my caddy that I even recognised one of the security guards here. I don’t feel out of place at The Open. Everything is set up like it has always been so it feels really nice to be back,” said Lahiri.
“For me, the more important thing is to play well. I want to do better than what I have done before. I know I can do that because I have contended in Majors in the past. I am getting a lot of confidence from the golf I am playing right now.
“It is not the typical Open, which used to be wet and cold so that makes me more comfortable. The course also reminds me a bit of the Delhi Golf Club, where one can keep hitting two-Irons and keep the ball in play,” Lahiri added.
Six Asian players in the Open field says a lot for how far Asian players have progressed in the game especially where the Majors are concerned. Won’t it be great if one of them actually came through on the fourth day with the Claret Jug in hand! It will certainly take the golfing world by storm. Asia needs for that to happen for it to get the world’s attention and to grow the game in the region.
The other Asian Tour members in The Open field this week include England’s Matt Wallace, Korea’s Sanghyun Park and Minchel Choi, South African Shaun Norris as well as Japan’s Yuta Ikeda, Masahiro Kawamura, Kodai Ichihara, Masanori Kobayashi and Hideto Tanihara.
Column | Malkeet KaurPublished on March 7, 2018
The Young Golfing Master of India
The rise of India’s Shubhankar Sharma in the golfing ranks has been nothing short of remarkable. So far, it’s been an amazing journey for the 21-year-old professional who never in his wildest imagination dreamt at the beginning of 2018, that he would be invited to one of the world’s biggest golfing stage – The Masters Tournament.
At 16, Sharma, who was already the number one junior in his country, opted to join the paid ranks, against advice from his peers. Word is, his father Retired Col Mohan Sharma sat him down one day and proceeded to plan the teenager’s professional golfing career. And aside from a few hiccups here and there, Sharma’s rise up the ranks of professional golf has been nothing short of spectacular.
I remember watching him at the 2017 Myanmar Open and was told then that he was an up and coming player to watch in the next few years. Ironically, it has taken only a few short months for Sharma to shed his up and coming tag to arrive in a big way.
Like all young Asian professionals, Sharma began his professional career on the Asian Development Tour (ADT) after failing in his first attempt at obtaining the Asian Tour card in 2014. Despite that, in that year itself, he claimed his first top-five finish on the Asian Tour on home soil at the Panasonic Open India.
Through his country exemption category, Sharma played in several Tour events in 2015 before earning his Asian Tour card in his second attempt at the Qualifying School in 2016.
No one had a clue of what was to come in 2018 after Sharma finished the 2017 season 51st on the Asian Tour moneylist, but looking at his record, one would have had a slight inkling as he had clinched several top-10 finishes in 2017 before winning the Joburg Open in South Africa in December. He was the only Indian in the field, and the win earned him a coveted spot at The Open in July. It was a great moment for the youngster, who was ecstatic at the idea of making his major debut at The Open at Carnoustie. But of course, now he will be making that dream debut at The Masters instead.
“This win is great because it opens so many doors for me. I’m also playing in The Open, so I’m excited about that. More and more players are coming out of Asia and India. You’ve had players like Jeev Milkha Singh, Arjun Atwal, Jyoti Randhawa and Anirban Lahiri. Just seeing them do well inspire us,” Sharma said after the Joburg Open.
In February, at the Maybank Championship in Saujana, he claimed his second Asian Tour and European Tour victory, closing with a 10-under 62 to seal the deal at the Saujana Golf & Country Club, taking home his career biggest prize purse yet of US$500,000 to move at the top of the Asian Tour’s Habitat for Humanity Standings and lead the race to Dubai on the European Tour.
He added, “The last two months have changed my life. I’ve always dreamt of winning, and now I’m a two-time winner on the Asian Tour and European Tour,” said Sharma, who rose to a career-high 72nd place on the latest Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR).”
The two wins on both the Tours also earned him a debut to the WGC-Mexico Championship, where Sharma ranked at No.75 in the world was the youngest player at 21. In an elite field of top-ranked players and major champions, Sharma produced a gutsy performance that saw him lead by two shots in the second and third rounds.
The youngster showed maturity beyond his age to finish joint ninth at the event, earning US$179,667 for his efforts. It also moved him to a career-high 66th place on the Official World Golf Ranking, making the highest ranked Indian player in the world.
Not surprising, Sharma became an overnight sensation in his homeland. Social media went a little crazy detailing Sharma’s golfing exploits. Everyone had something to say about his performances in Mexico and, perhaps a little too much hope was placed on his young shoulders.
Fellow Indian professionals also hailed his performances in Mexico, and though many were disappointed that Mickelson had stolen the thunder by winning thus ending his own winless drought, everyone was appeased and elated when Sharma was rewarded with an invite from Fred Ridley, the Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament.
I am sure, in the years to come, we will be hearing more of this young man’s exploits on the golf course. There used to be a time when we applauded the uniquely talented players from the United States, Europe or even Japan. Today, the tides are changing; more and more Asian players are stepping into the limelight and are able to hold their own on in elite fields. Perhaps the time will come when an Asian player is not mistaken for media personnel, instead be recognised as a professional golfer of equal standing.
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